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Russia: Joseph Stalin’s grandson awaits court ruling on “slanderous” attacks on former Communist leader

Tomorrow, judges will rule on a complaint from Joseph Stalin’s grandson, who protests that Russian media attacks on the former Soviet leader breach human rights law.

The European Court of Human Rights will announce its decision in the case Dzhugashvili v. Russia (no. 41123/10) on 15 January.

The applicant, Yevgeniy Dzhugashvili, is a Russian national who was born in 1936 and lives in Moscow. The case concerns his complaint about two newspaper articles concerning his grandfather, Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader.

In April 2009, Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, published an article about the historical debate on the shooting of Polish prisoners in Katyń in 1940 and the role which the former Soviet leaders, including the applicant’s grandfather, had presumably played in those events.

Considering that the article slandered his grandfather, he sued the newspaper, its publisher and the author of the article for defamation. In October 2009 the first-instance court dismissed his claim, finding in particular that the publication contributed to a factual debate on events of exceptional public interest and importance and that the historical role of the applicant’s ancestor, a world-famous public figure, called for a higher degree of tolerance to public scrutiny and criticism.

Upheld on appeal, this judgment became final in December 2009. The debate was continued in another article which was published in Novaya Gazeta after the first-instance judgment and Dzhugashvili sued again, without success.

Relying in essence on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Dzhugashvili complains that the national courts approved the slander of his grandfather.

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